Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

A newly created job of "spotter" will have someone watching civic center crowds for disruptive behavior.
A newly created job of "spotter" will have someone watching civic center crowds for disruptive behavior.
Black Hills Knowledge Network photo/Chelsea Gortmaker
August 10, 2015

Civic Center Tightens Security

By Richie Richards

Native Sun News Staff Writer

While the Phillip man awaits the results of a trial for disorderly conduct, Trace O’Connell might also be banned from future events at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Native Sun News interviewed the Life Safety & Events Coordinator for the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Larry Dale, regarding any possible security upgrades, personnel trainings, and procedural modifications since the Jan. 24 incident at the Rush Hockey game.

A ruling is awaited from Magistrate Court Judge Eric Strawn’s in a case of “he said, she said” with race being an underlying factor. A group of 50 American Horse School students and their seven chaperones have said they were verbally harassed by O'Connell and had beer thrown on them during the hockey game.


“Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the changes here at the Civic Center,” began Dale, “We know LNI, the Black Hills Powwow, and other events are important to Native American families and to the City of Rapid City. We have taken steps to minimize incidents.”

When asked by NSN to review incidents in 2014, Dale openly shared his binder of Incident Reports for the year. According to Dale, there have been “very few arrests” or calls for police assistance.

The staff and managers of the Civic Center choose to handle the situations internally when possible, according to Dale. “We act as moderators in most cases,” says Dale.

The 2014 incident reports reveal the high number of staff involvement come from puck injuries to fans, self-inflicted injuries such as falls/slips, parking lot incidents and vehicle damages, lost/stolen items, and a very little fights or assaults on staff reported.

When asked about placing security cameras in the events areas, Dale said he had “mixed feelings about that. It would be ideal to have video of the crowd for situations like this (AHS incident) that arise.”

But he also would like to protect the privacy of the patrons of the venue and “assure artists we are not recording the show,” according to Dale. Protecting the performers’ shows overrides the protection of families at this time.

Security cameras are used in major venues around the world as an undeniable visual witness and as a preventative measure for illicit behaviors.

Currently, there are security cameras inside and outside the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center buildings, but none of those cameras have audio and none are directly placed inside the venues and seating areas.

Another deciding factor, according to Dale, for not having security cameras in venue areas, is cost. At nearly $2000 per camera, this is an expense the Civic Center is not currently budgeted for.

Security cameras fixed on seating areas would prevent issues which arose during the O’Connell trial. Multiple witnesses from multiple angles testified with slight variations on a series of events which lead to charges being filed and now a possible lawsuit to follow.

Following the Jan. 24 incident, management and staff of the Civic Center met in a series of meetings to discuss changes in the security procedures and reactionary implementations to future occurrences which place guests in dangerous situations.

Although more security was not brought on staff, a “Spotter” was hired. The Spotter will be in the venue areas with binoculars, “looking for behaviors” to notate anything and radio personnel to incidents in certain areas, according to Dale.

Along with the Spotter position, Dale claims the ushers and food and beverage staff have had “upgraded training to be highly more aware of behaviors and persons and to watch the crowd better.” This training came in the form of “verbal instruction and classroom trainings.”

Pre-event security training and staff meetings will be conducted to ensure a safe and family friendly environment. “Everybody is a set of eyes now,” says Dale.

On the night of Jan. 24, 2015, American Horse School chaperones claimed to not be able to find security or staff to assist them with the drunken crowd above. When NSN asked where the staff was on this night, Dale answered, “They (ushers) were probably turned around watching the game.”

Dale was the manager on staff on Jan. 24 at the Rush Hockey Game. He was in charge that night.

The Life Safety & Events Coordinator has pressed the need for increasing awareness. They will be practicing the “see something, say something” policy at games and events in the future.

A Public Service Announcement to be displayed on video monitors during the game will serve as a tool to remind patrons, “If you see something, please report it,” according to Dale. Guests will be asked to find staff in the “blue shirts” for assistance.

Another mechanism to protect families from intoxicated fans will be the implementation of a family-friendly seating section for “those who don’t want to be around alcohol and it will give you more control of who you sit by,” says Dale.

When asked if O’Connell would be banned as a liability to the Civic Center for his alleged actions, Dale answered in an email, “…we are waiting on the outcome of a trial to see if there is any legal basis for us to be able to exercise our possible right to ban him. The issue for us is complicated and mitigated by the fact that no staff was a direct witness to any actions.”

Dale had a message to the Native American community about attending Civic Center events in the future, “We understand that feeling safe and secure for Native American families is very important since this very egregious incident. Since this occurred, we have implemented changes for your safety and for all who attend.”

Dale said, “We have made strides to up our visibility, to up our stance, and to up our availability and wee hope you feel welcomed by us making these changes.”


(Contact Richie Richards at [email protected])

Copyright permission Native Sun News


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